A close friend of mine recently put out a general call for donations. Jeff is a volunteer mentor at a local school. He spends time, every week, with a child named Jimmy who really appreciates Jeff's attention, his encouragement and his time. This young fellow, it turns out, is a really good basketball player. In fact, he has been invited to participate in an Atlantic Canada championship in New Brunswick this summer. Jimmy is ecstatic. The only hesitation he has - it is going to cost a fair bit of money to get him there, cover his expenses, and get him back to the Island. Jimmy's single mom is unable to contribute much. Jimmy had started his own fundraising initiatives, but he wasn't having much success. Jeff wondered if he might be able to help somehow. After all, it would be such a shame if Jimmy wasn't able to make it. Jeff did a little research and decided, with the permission of Jimmy, his mom, and the school to try and raise a few funds online, through Facebook, via a GoFundme account. Jeff set up his page, posted a picture of he and Jimmy, told Jimmy's story, and asked if family and friends would like to make a small contribution. Jeff made the first donation. His goal - $600. A day and a half later Jeff closed the page, they had raised over $1300! Jimmy will get what he needs to attend the camp this summer, and the remaining funds will go to Jimmy's school, to help other children who might need similar support. A day or so after the appeal was over Jimmy, and the principal of the school, called Jeff at work. Jimmy was so excited and he thanked Jeff for making it possible for him to attend the championship. He then said, "I don't know what you did, but all the teachers here are crying!"
I am so happy that things worked out so well for Jimmy, and I am also very pleased that I got an opportunity to contribute to such a worthwhile endeavour. ... But why? What motivated me to get involved? Why, when there are so many other needs out there, did I quickly respond to this one? I think I was inspired. Let me say some more about that.
In the research we have done as the United Church of Canada we have learned how to successfully raise funds for good causes (like M&S, emergency relief, and local ministries, for instance). The three key components are: Inspire, Ask, and Thank.* Let me explain by using Jeff & Jimmy's story.
Jeff believes in and is committed to the program he volunteers with. He gives his time and energy in an effort to make a difference, even if it is only in the life of one young boy. Jeff saw a need, and wanted to help. He knew he needed the support of others to meet his goal. So Jeff sought the financial support of others. He began his financial appeal by telling the story of the need, and how Jimmy could benefit from support. He included a picture. For those of us who saw the appeal, I know for me, it made a difference to me that Jeff was making it. I respect Jeff as a friend and I admire his commitment to the program. Secondly, the story itself was moving for me. You see I have children who are involved in sports and activities. My son, also an athlete, has had the privilege to go and compete outside the province at a high level in both hockey and baseball. I know how wonderful an experience that was for him; but also how expensive it can be. I wanted to make sure Jimmy got to experience that trip and event! Apparently I was not the only one!
Jeff was gentle, but his ask was clear. And, as importantly, we could see that Jeff was supporting the cause he was promoting, with both his time, and his money. He was asking us to join him.
I didn't give to Jimmy in order to be thanked, but there was a real good feeling I got when Jeff thanked me (in person and by e-mail) and told me what an great impact my donation was going to have. I wanted to make a difference, and Jeff's expressed gratitude assured me that my gift was both appreciated, and important.
What I learned from this experience is that I gave to Jimmy's fundraiser because I was I was inspired. I was moved by the story from someone whom I respected and trusted; a friend, who told me of a need, and who offered me an opportunity to make a difference.
The question I would leave you with ... How can we inspire others to give like that to the Church? What can we learn about Jeff and Jimmy's story to help us raise money for the important life-changing ministry in our churches? ... More about that, and the new Stewardship Program, "Called to Be the Church," next time.
* Just last week every United Church congregation received part one of a comprehensive Giving Program, "Called to Be the Church." The foundational elements of the program are: Inspire, Ask and Thank. By using good stewardship theology, and proven principles of fundraising, this program promises to help all of our congregations strengthen their stewardship and increase their giving.